When Masamune Shirow and Production I.G. get together, you're pretty much guaranteed a thought provoking and visually excellent series, and both of these facets are unsurprisingly present in the first episode of Real Drive. The opening episode begins with some sort of diving experiment that goes horribly wrong, with the ocean 'burning' and seemingly killing Haru, the diver we witness taking part in said experiment.
The episode then fast forwards fifty years - Haru is an old, wheelchair-bound man, whose brain has been digitised and those past five decades lost to him completely for whatever reason. As we rejoin Haru's life, so the same phenomena that were seen during that experiment all that time ago re-emerge.
There's plenty more to Real Drive that just that, but... well, to be honest I can't make head nor tail of most of it from this opening episode. As you might expect from a Shirow work, there's plenty of talk of cybernetics and nanomachines, and a clash between the over-reliance on technology (one character notes that any memory which hasn't been digitised is inherently untrustworthy) and the still misunderstood forces of nature. There's clearly plenty of thought-provoking material to be probed by the series, but it's far too early to say how, why or in what fashion all of this will occur.
Still, one thing I can say about Real Drive's opener is that it looks fantastic, with some excellent use of CGI matching the top-notch animation, and some wonderfully luxurious user interface designs more extravagant than even those seen in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Of course, no show can live off visuals alone, but with so much unexplained I can't even begin to second guess the storyline at this juncture. It's very much a case of wait, see and absorb what future episodes bring to see if this can be the new Ghost in the Shell, something entirely different, or simply a mere second-rate pretender to that throne.